More power to children

School clubs empower children and boost their confidence. The project run by the Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation in the Bukoba District of Tanzania has given students more opportunities to become involved – particularly in relation to child rights and child protection.

Dickison and Patricia found that school clubs gave them the opportunity to have their say.

Dickison and Patricia are visiting the Karwoshe Primary School near Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania, one of 24 schools in the «Increased educational participation in a school environment free from violence» project. He is in charge of the Sports Club, while she leads the Student's Council.

For the last eight years, our local partner organisation, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), has been training teachers in interactive teaching methods and helping them create lesson materials using local resources or lead large classes. School administration teams are empowered to develop and implement their own child protection policies. The central feature of the project is to give students more opportunities to become involved and have their say.

«The Student's CouncDil is respected by the teachers and taken seriously,» Patricia, its President, emphasises. This is a result of the project’s activities, she believes. «Training sessions allowed us to develop our skills, and we learnt how to communicate. Today I have the necessary confidence to address concerns and to discuss them.» The Student's Council is made up of ten representatives from each year group from third grade to seventh grade and meets quarterly. Just recently, the Student's Council raised a key priority with the school principal: it wants the school to offer at least one meal a day. It is not uncommon for students to have to leave home to go to school without breakfast and then not eat anything for the entire day.

Dickison believes the Leadership Workshops run by VSO have been very valuable for his personal development. «The training sessions helped me to stand up in front of others, to lead them, to offer support and to discuss things. I can express myself much better now too.» In order to ensure the workshops are not just reserved for a select group, the project also makes use of so-called peer education through the children and youths. After each training session, the representatives of the school clubs return to their classes and share what they have learned with their fellow students.

VSO is running various activities at the project schools focusing on issues such as gender roles, child protection and child rights. These sessions aim to do more than raise awareness among children and youths and to teach them about their own rights. It is also important to have clear procedures and responsibilities so that students can raise their concerns in the appropriate place and, in serious cases, be able to turn to a dependable point of contact such as a liaison teacher.